Being a professional athlete is hard work. You have to put up with things like early morning training sessions, round the clock media attention, and rigorous dieting – all before you even step on to the field of play.
Ask any elite athlete, however, and they’ll tell you that it’s worth it come game day, when thousands of cheering fans will be cheering them on and screaming their names. And of course, the pay isn’t too bad either.
In fact, professional sport is one of the highest paid occupations in the world today. All 100 individuals on the most recent Forbes Highest Paid Athletes list earned in excess of US$16 million during 2013, with the top earner, Tiger Woods, pocketing a whopping $78.1 million.
To give you a better idea of just how much moolah the top athletes earn, we’ve put together this list of five of the biggest sporting paydays of all time. If you’re looking for motivation to head down to your next practice session, this might just be the inspiration you need.
Tom Brady – $1.125 million per game during 2010-2014
The sporting world is full of big long-term contracts, but few come richer than that of American football golden boy Tom Brady, who signed on to a mammoth four year $72 million contract with the New England Patriots in 2010.
To put that into context, the average NFL team plays just 16 games per year. With his contract netting him $18 million per annum, Brady took home a touch over $1.1 million for every game he played. Not bad for a day’s work, huh?
Mark Webber – $12.9 million on the 2013 Formula 1 grid
Aussie lad Mark Webber didn’t make the Forbes list, but he’s no stranger to zeros in his bank account. Webber brought home more than $12M cold hard Australian dollars for his year on the track in 2013, according to Fox Sports.
Not a bad way to go out really, as this speedy superstar retired at the end of the year after a full 12 years in the sport. This young driver hadn’t even hit the big four-zero yet, but a healthy superannuation fund is probably a lot easier to achieve with that kind of income!
Henrik Stenson – $10 million for the 2013 FedEx Cup
The FedEx Cup is the richest prize in golf, awarded every year to the player with the highest combined score from the previous PGA Tour season. In 2013, the cup was awarded to Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who captured the title after winning the Tour Championship playoff event in September.
If you thought the $10 million bonus awarded to the FedEx Cup champion was impressive – consider this. Stenson also pocketed around $6.5 million in prize money during the 18 PGA events he competed in throughout the year. That’s one family that will be celebrating Christmas in style.
Floyd Mayweather – $41.5 million to fight Canelo Alvarez in 2013
Boxing has always been a sport where big personalities clash for big money, but Floyd Mayweather rewrote the record books in 2013 when he pocketed a cool $41.5 million just for stepping into the ring with Canelo Alvarez.
That number eclipsed the previous record for largest guarantee ever paid to a boxer, held by Evander Holyfield, who was paid $33 million for fighting Mike Tyson in 1997. The incredible thing is that this is just the tip of the iceberg – while the exact figures are unknown, Mayweather probably took home twice that amount after pay-per-view revenues were taken into account.
Antonio Esfandiari – $18,346,673 at the 2012 Poker Big One for One Drop
Some people would argue that poker isn’t really a sport, but when Antonio Esfandiari pocketed a cool $18.35 million at the World Series of Poker Big One for One Drop event in 2012, it’s unlikely anyone was arguing his credentials.
The Big One for One Drop tournament was a special charity event with an eye-popping entry fee of $1 million. The 48-man entry pool consisted of a mixture of poker professionals and wealthy executives with more money than sense. In the end, though, long-time poker personality Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari took the victory and the pot.
But the reality is that most of us might not make the list of top paid athletes, perhaps we should start making the small steps to contribute towards our super instead?